Jarrod and April Stone Dahl: Lidded Baskets

April and Jarrod Stone Dahl (Woodspirit) have a rich history of creating beautiful and utilitarian objects for everyday use. Jarrod grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin, a small town on the shores of Lake Superior. He is of Scandinavian decent and much of his woodworking is inspired by those woodworking traditions as well as the indigenous woodworking methods of that area. April is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa/Ojibwe. She began weaving black ash baskets in 1999 after observing a basket Jarrod had made and was using daily as a lunch basket on a log building construction site. She was so impressed with how it held up to the daily abuse that the material earned her respect and she began weaving utilitarian baskets.

The couple takes time out to travel and teach, but, as Jarrod states below,  have recently taken on an interesting research project:

“Over the years, every once in awhile, April weaves one of these lidded baskets. They have a very interesting history on the East coast of the US. They were made by the Schaghticoke, Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Wampanoag tribes to name a few. For generations there has existed a basket weaving tradition among families within the tribal groups in the East. If you do a quick internet search you will find a few of the main families.”

“The shape and proportions of this basket is pretty true to the older designs and styles from 1900 and early. There doesn’t seem to be much of this style here in the midwest with the Winnebago, Ojibwe, and Odawa. If there was it’s been hard to find. Today most folks are making the fancy lidded baskets that have round bottoms and are made with dyed splints. The older forms April likes have square or rectangle bases and are made from natural or un-dyed splints. Many of the old baskets were stamped with decorations and April intends to try that on a few of these over the next few weeks.”

April is really inspired by the old lidded boxes. She says they are a challenge to do right. Getting the sweet proportions between the uprights and the weavers is a very subtle thing. When done well the basket really sings, when just a little off the basket kinda just sits there. Weaving a lid that fits just right is not something that can be rushed. The lids take some careful planning, a high level of understanding of the materials and skill to get it right.”

Next month April and Jarod will leave their home in Wisconsin and set out on a 3 week trip to visit museums and collections the Eastern United States. April was recently awarded a fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation

“For her Regional Artist Fellowship, Stone-Dahl will create the pieces as a tribute to the dying Black Ash tree and also plans to research more about Ash basket weaving from other communities, museums and collections outside her region with the hope of gaining more knowledge about the tradition not only for her work but also to teach her students and other eager learners.”

In addition, in June they will both be teaching at Greenwood Fest in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Photo credit: Jarrod Stone Dahl